English was once a language for “commoners,” while the British elites spoke French

Despite the severity with which some contemporary English-speakers vehemently attack “incorrect” uses of the language, English used to belong to the people. In the formative years of the language, it was only spoken by “commoners,” while the English courts and aristocracy mostly spoke in French. This was due to the Norman Invasion of 1066 and caused years of division between the “gentlemen” who had adopted the Anglo-Norman French and those who only spoke English. Even the famed King Richard the Lionheart was actually primarily referred to in French, as Richard “Coeur de Lion.”

To further mess with your preconceptions about the English language, the “British accent” was actually created after the Revolutionary War, meaning contemporary Americans sound more like the colonists and British soldiers of the 18th century than contemporary Brits. Of course, accents vary greatly by region, but the “BBC English” or public school English accent (which sounds like Austin Powers) didn’t come about until the 19th century and was originally adopted by people who wanted to sound fancier.

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